If ever there was an award for the biggest, most thick headed chump, I probably would win the crown. I am an idiot chump. I’ve been holding on to a man who consistently lies, cheats and emotionally abuses without much remorse. I’m gripped on to this train wreck relationship like I’ve somehow found myself perched on the wing of an airplane zooming through the sky at Mach 10 speed. I’m holding on that tightly. And it’s ridiculous. And I know it. And I’ve got no clue what I’m doing. Let me try to explain….
I found out over a year ago that the first year of our relationship he was seeing another woman the entire time. She had no clue I existed and up until D-day I didn’t know about her either. And his charade would have continued had he not left his email account open on my computer at my home. And of course, it wasn’t until I had to supply him with her name, where she was from, and direct quotes such as “you’re such an amazing lover, I love how everything feels with you” ripped directly from the emails themselves that he came clean. (Or as clean as liars come anyway.)
He made ME tell him everything I knew before he would stop calling me irrational and crazy… Gas lighting at its finest. I should have run then. He said he had stopped seeing her two weeks prior to my finding his emails. His family KNEW of his double life and not one fucking family member thought to tell the single mom he was dating and leading to believe they had a future together, “Hey!! He’s not faithful! Maybe you shouldn’t have impressionable young boys around a man like this!” No one said a word… And when I asked his mother why she would turn a blind eye to that type of thing, I was answered with a “I just don’t know why he’s so unsettled. I’m sorry.”
He swore he wouldn’t do anything like that again. And in my haze of pain caused by stumbling upon reality, I believed him. I’m telling you, that pain you feel when you first find out is so acute and so blazing hot, you believe and do accept just about anything to make it go away. I stated before I was an idiot… I’ve got so many more reasons that prove it.
Things were okay (not ever great by any means) for the next few months, but because infidelity rips the blinders off of fairytales, I was watching his every move like a hawk. I became my own version of Magnum P.I. And it wasn’t pretty. I googled his name and found him on dating websites complete with updated pictures of himself that he had sent me a week prior and I complimented how handsome he looked in the photo. I was literally giving him advice on which photos would bait the most chicks, I just didn’t know it. So then it was time to confront again… (Why am I doing this again?) I’m an idiot…. Do you see the theme here? He swears he never met any of these women in person, and he would shut down the site… I should have run then.
Fast forward another couple months, and I’m still playing Magnum P.I. While trying to hold a full-time job, a part-time job, and raise two boys as a single mom… I’m exhausted and just want things to be easy… Well, my cheater had different plans for me I guess. He was once again on dating websites, this time Christian mingle.com and even though that hurt like hell to find out, after a bottle of wine and a few thousand tears I was able to see the hilarious irony. And also plucked up the courage to email the women he had been talking with to inform them of his penchant for being a douchebag. “I’m sorry to inform you angelwing2351, imakeeper216 is NOT a knight in shining armor. A carrier of God knows how many STDs at this point, yes…but a man to be trusted and raise a good Christian family with? No.” with every message I sent to woman after woman I kept hoping that maybe THIS time I would see the light. I did not. I should have run then.
There are many other specific instances I could tell you about, but I’m sure by now you’re getting the point… He consistently goes missing for hours at a time, and then scolds me for questioning his whereabouts. He tells me he’s staying with his parents for a night, and because I don’t believe him, I jump in my car at 3:30am like some crazed love vigilante and look for his car at his parents’ house, which of course isn’t there. He chides me for being reluctant to move in with him, saying that my hesitation is what drives him to cheat. He says my reluctance to have a child with him makes him feel unwanted and unloved. I mean, the universe is SCREAMING to me, “Exactly how stupid can you be?” I hear it. Really, I do.
So here is where it gets messy… In case all of the above hasn’t made you smack your forehead in exasperation at least 15 times already… I’m still with him. I have read your book. I know what I should be doing. What on earth is wrong with me? Why do I keep handing out chances like I’m one of those people in Vegas passing out sleazy call girl cards to every person and their grandma who walks by? Why is detangling myself from this guy so hard? We break up and then I cave. I am the embodiment of insanity. And I know it. Which is maybe the most insane part of it all. Do you hear from other people like me? Or am I a special kind of stupid? Any advice would be appreciated.
The Idiot Queen
PS. Did I mention, we aren’t married? That little nugget only adds to my level of dumb.
PSS. He lives with his parents, and me part-time, when he’s not working nights.
Do I hear from other people like you? Darling, the blog odometer just flipped 7 million. [It’s actually nearly 13 million now…] We call ourselves “Chump Nation” here. Hell yes chumps are legion! I’m afraid you have some stiff competition vying for the Idiot Crown. So stop feeling stupid and start acting mighty.
I’m just going to cut to the chase — you need to get out of your head. Stop beating yourself up. Stop trying to figure him out. Stop listening to his blameshifting crap. ACT. It’s not enough to know what you need to do, you need to DO IT.
But! But! First I need to figure everything out and examine my motivations on why I’m being this way! And why he’s this way! I need to measure and carefully weigh every excuse, every episode of cheating, I must review the evidence!
No you don’t. I could devote an entire column to untangling you. (I have. It’s here.) Fact is, you’re smoking the hopium pipe and you need to quit. You don’t want to quit. That’s what your actions say.
I tell people all the time to pay attention to cheater’s actions and pay no attention to their words. Well, the same is true with chumps. This guy has shown you a bazillion times who he is, and you CHOOSE to STAY. You have to own that choice. You’re there because you want to be there. Even though you know it is a self-destructive choice.
You either like what kind of person that makes you — a chump — or you don’t.
I sense you don’t like it (i.e., “I’m an idiot”), but you don’t not like it enough to do something about it (i.e., leave him).
Your feelings will change when YOU change. He’s not going to change. He’s going to keep being the predictable, cheating, lying, gas-lighting asshole that he is.
Chumps often get it backwards, we think — oh, when I arrive at a consensus that He Sucks, I will leave. (More research! More hopium!), but it works the other way — when you LEAVE, and go no contact, then your thinking changes. The clouds part. The spell breaks. You feel a hell of a lot better. So start acting in your own best interest.
Acting is instinctual. When exposed to danger, the brain pumps adrenaline to fight or flee. Read that again — FIGHT or FLEE. You’re not hitting him upside the head, and you’re not running the hell away from him. Instead you are waging a battle on yourself. You’re internalizing this shit. You’ve muffled the warning sirens.
You’re not fighting or fleeing — you want Mr. Danger to cuddle you and tell you everything is going to be all right. Yes, that is insane. You could get some therapy as to why that dynamic might be familiar to you (I’ll just try really hard to make scary people love me!) but I suggest you just run away right now and figure out the FOO crap later.
While trying to hold a full-time job, a part-time job, and raise two boys as a single mom… I’m exhausted and just want things to be easy…
In my opinion, this right here is what’s driving you. This is what fuels your hopium — you’re an exhausted single parent holding it all down and you think that partnership will make things easier.
This one really tugs at my heartstrings, because I’ve been there, Queen. I’ve been that lonely single mom. I know exactly how exhausting and hard that shit is. I know the social opprobrium and the pity. I know what it’s like to press your face against the glass of other people’s seemingly perfect, partnered, intact family lives. I know what it’s like to go to parent teacher conferences alone. I know what it’s like to be around smug mommy playgroup cliques. I know what it’s like to send your child on school father/son camping trips and have him have to buddy up with other kid’s dads.
I know exactly how alone being a working single mom feels. And no one in your life is telling you you’re mighty. They’re acting like you’re a bit embarrassing, a bit of a fuck up. And you know what would cure it? You know what would be really awesome? A PARTNER! Legitimacy! Someone to empty the dishwasher! Someone to curl up in bed with after a long, hard day! Another adult to help raise those kids! And an adult to be an adult around and talk about something that isn’t Power Rangers.
And you got a TASTE of that. Of coupledom and happy ever after. Of lifting the burden of aloneness. And it was sweet! It was a very beautiful dream and you want the lie back. And if you can’t have the lie, you’re going to have to go back to the Pit of Alone and the Quagmire of Doing It All By Myself. And you tell yourself terrible self-defeating things that you’ll never have another relationship, and this shit is too hard, and he’s not All Bad, and really you had some Good Times…
… And there you are. Stuck.
I don’t fault the partner dream, Queen, but you can’t let it rule you. I’m partnered now, and it is a LOT easier. Night and day, really. But chasing that dream of partnership, being vulnerable and wobbly on my single self-worth made me catnip to a sociopath. It’s made YOU catnip to a serial cheater wingnut too. And that shit is a MILLION TIMES HARDER than being a single mom. A bazillion googolplex times harder.
Wake up! You don’t have a partner. You have an anchor. And you’re never going to have a love worthy of you if you stay with him.
Please do not model this shit to your sons. Do not let them grow up thinking cheating is natural and right, and we should just hand out chances. Do you want them to be chumps or cheaters? Do you want them to muffle their warning sirens some day?
Queen, you are ENOUGH. You’ve got a wonderful turn of phrase and you aren’t stupid. Please know your worth. But more than knowing your self worth, please act on it. Leave the cheater — gain the life. We’ll hold your hand through this. You are mighty.
This column ran previously.